Arming Without Aiming: India's Military Modernization
India's explosive economic growth and rising international influence have led many experts to predict a possible major rearmament effort by the Indian military, in the face of ongoing tensions with Pakistan and a subcontinent that remains vulnerable to religious extremism. What steps has India taken to expand its military? What actions might India take in the future and what are the implications for the region?
On September 7, the Brookings Institution hosted the launch of Arming Without Aiming: India's Military Modernization (Brookings Press, 2010), written by Senior Fellow Stephen Cohen, the author of numerous books on India and Pakistan, including The Idea of Pakistan (Brookings) and India: Emerging Power (Brookings), and Nonresident Fellow Sunil Dasgupta, director of Political Science at the University of Maryland's Universities at Shady Grove. Following the authors' presentation, Edward Luce of the Financial Times and Ashley Tellis with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace joined a panel discussion on the future of India's military.
Brookings President Strobe Talbott provided introductory remarks. After the program, panelists took audience questions.
STROBE TALBOTT: This book is in some ways a follow on to Steve's earlier book, India: Emerging Power, which was published back in 2001. In the intervening nine years, India, of course, has grown in prosperity, it's grown in its economic, and I would say, geopolitical clout, its role in an evolving international architecture of multilateral institutions. But of course, during that same period, since 2001, the neighborhood in which India plays such an important role, a neighborhood that is home to more than a third of humanity, has gotten, in some ways, even more complicated. That's in no small measure as a result of the 2008 Mumbai massacre and the ensuing tensions between India and Pakistan, and, of course, we've also had, during this period, rising concerns about the long-term stability of Pakistan given the encroachments of the Taliban and al Qaeda into that country.
Also, to complicate the matter further, there is what I would call ongoing uncertainty about the future dynamics of India-China relations. And I would, just speaking for myself, not necessarily for the authors who will in a moment speak for themselves, I would put the overall context as follows: One of the more interesting -- in the sense of the old Chinese curse -- relationships in the world is the triangular relationship among China, India, and Pakistan. One leg of that triangle, namely the relationship between Pakistan and China, is, both historically and prospectively, highly cooperative whereas two legs of the triangle, the one between India and Pakistan and the one between India and China, are fraught with some danger.
Now, there is an idea out there that I suspect will come up in the course of the conversation and I know comes up in the book, that that danger can be managed in a way that somehow replicates the way in which the United States and the Soviet Union were able to keep the Cold War cold, that is to make sure that it didn't turn hot in the form of a thermonuclear war. And, of course, the principle mechanism for that was mutual deterrence.
Ashley Tellis @ Page 17 :
Indian defense policy is in crisis. It's in crisis for at least two reasons. One, the external environment that India had planned its military forces for since independence is steadily changing before the eyes of Indian policymakers.
The kind of threats India is going to face from Pakistan, which are threats that emerge increasingly from weakness, are not the kind of threats that the Indian military is the best instrument to cope with. And the kinds of capabilities that India is going to face on the Chinese front, which traditionally were premised on the assumption of persistent Chinese weakness, are actually being transformed as we speak into fundamental Chinese strengths, emerging Chinese strengths. And it is still not clear at this point whether India's military capacities will enable it to hold its own vis-Ã -vis a modern Chinese military, particularly if China's political and strategic intentions towards India were to change.